Farmers Are Warming Up Even If Spring Is Not.

You may have noticed we seem to be suffering through a colder than normal spring.  If so, you’re not alone.  Each day closer to May that finds me in several layers of shirt, wool sweaters, fleece jackets and knitted hats is another day closer to utter insanity.  Luckily, I have plenty to keep my mind off the constant gray in the sky, constant sound of wind through the trees and the remarkably few days I’ve had to open the hoop houses for fear of excessive heat.

Red Russian Kale, Australe Lettuce and Coastal Star Romaine all in the same bed.

Red Russian Kale, Australe Lettuce and Coastal Star Romaine all in the same bed.

Peas have emerged in the hoop house.

Peas have emerged in the hoop house.

Farmers all across Maine are gearing up for the upcoming season.  Within hoop houses and greenhouses everywhere, linear space is being eaten up fast as seedlings multiply like proverbial rabbits.

I for one am fast running out of room for more plants.  This is a problem because in the next couple weeks I’ll be planting more seeds and moving things I’ve already planted into larger pots or seed blocks, which take up much more space!

Normally by now I can make room by starting to plant out some of the more cold hardy crops.  Things like chard, kale, choi and certain types of lettuce can go outside and if it’s going to get really, really cold I’ll throw a sheet of plastic or some floating row cover over them.  A few things have prevented this so far this year.  One, it’s been cold a lot.  We haven’t had very many nights below freezing but above 32 degrees leaves a straggling winter a lot of leeway to make a tender young seedling’s life miserable (or terminate it).  Two, our new farm is apparently the place where all the deer in Maine go to hang out.

I learned this winter the reason we have so many deer in the yard year round is because one of our neighbors through the woods feeds them, going so far as to buy hay for them in the winter.  I like deer as much as the next guy but this revelation is still hurting my jaw (from all the teeth grinding!)  So I’ve begun what I’ve known all winter was an inevitable task.  Installing fencing around the gardens.

I love working in the woods and this has given me a chance to continue cleaning up the forested parts of our new farm.  The previous owner sold stump-age to pay for some improvements and the crew left the forest a tangled mess of downed and rotting trees.  I enjoy the work of cleaning things up and making the forest a more enjoyable place to be.  However, it’s spring.  I have a few other things to be getting on with at the moment!

Hopefully, you’re looking forward to market season and anticipating many tables groaning under many pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits, pasture raised chickens and grass-fed beef and stacks of baked goods made with fresh fruits and vegetables from Maine’s fantastic farmers and artisans.  We the farmers and artisans are planting and prepping like mad secure in the hope that sun will return to our corner of the northern hemisphere bringing with it warmth and photosynthesis.  When it does, we’ll each shoot out of the gate as though a starting pistol has fired, dashing across fields and gardens and dotting them with row upon row of delicious fare which will soon grace the tables of our friends, neighbors and customers.  Local Food.  Eat well – be well.

Ryan Parker

About Ryan Parker

Ryan Parker is a farmer, writer, artist and musician. He currently lives in Central Maine with his wife, two children, a golden retriever, some pigs and chickens. He raises pastured and forested animals and grows a diverse range of vegetables without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or taxpayer subsidies.